The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

What's New in Heating and Cooling Technologies for Log Homes

Posted on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 04:01 PM

log home solarFrom a recent post on the Log Home Council's Web page - another great and timely article that is relevant and informative.

New advancements in heating and cooling will enable you breath easy while spending less on energy. Here’s a primer on the plethora of choices for your new log or timber home.

Wouldn’t it be great if new homes came with stickers on the windows that predicted its energy performance, just like today’s automobiles? This would come in handy, especially in this era of higher fuel costs. Then too, our expectations of comfort have changed drastically in recent years. Today we not only want to be perfectly cozy whether it’s frigid or scorching outside, we want our indoor air to be clean and germ-free, with just a kiss of humidity.

Fortunately all this is achievable in your new log and timber home, provided you create a heating and cooling strategy long before you build, advises experts with the Log and Timber Homes Council.

It’s important to think of your home as a total system. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be super energy efficient. That’s why one has to approach heating and cooling strategy on a whole-home basis. Rather than just cobble together a furnace, water heater and air conditioner after the home is built, one has to plan a comprehensive strategy of how the home will operate if you value your comfort and energy costs.

Start With Where Will You Be Building?
A log and timber home in the Southwest desert will need a far different heating and cooling strategy than one set along the coast of Maine. Is your area prone to power outages, wind or snow storms? Your local climate will influence the design of your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

Site Orientation
Simply orientating your home properly on the building site can reduce your energy bill by up to 30 percent, say the experts at the Log and Timber Homes Council, part of the National Association of Home Builders. Although it is best to face windows directly south, it can be oriented up to 30 degrees away from due south and lose only five percent of the energy savings.

Design Do’s & Don’ts
The volume of space can affect your heating needs, as can the number of windows and doors. Cathedral ceilings, in particular, take more energy to heat and cool since it creates more volume.

What’s Overhead
A home’s biggest culprit in energy loss is the roof. At issue is insulation and how effective it is. Discuss with your log and timber home producer how your roof will be configured, its cost and how it will affect the home’s energy performance.

Power Up
Your selection in HVAC system will be influence by fuel and its costs. Natural gas is the predominate fuel in the West, fuel oil is common in the Northeast and propane is often used in areas when one can’t easily access either. If you’re building site is located far from the power grid, you’ll likely have to employ alternative technologies, such as wind and solar power.

The Benefits of Thermal Mass
Logs are an excellent insulating material, thanks to thermal mass. Log walls collect and store energy, then radiate it back. One can increase energy efficiency by adding more thermal mass—upgrading the diameter of your logs or installing tile floors in front of south-facing windows. Today’s modern log and timber homes can be built to be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.

Choices in Windows
To help keep your home cool in summer and warm in winter, window manufacturers offer “low-e” coatings that block ultraviolet rays. Compare performance with U-value ratings, which range from 1.20 to .20. The lower the number, the better the energy performance. In cold climates, a U-value of .3 to .5 is worth the extra you’ll pay for it.

Be Cool
Recently the Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for central air conditioners and heat pumps by 30 percent, from 10 to 13 SEER. You’ll pay from $400 to $1,200 more for the 13 SEER. However, the good news is it will pay for itself in energy savings in 10 years. Other air conditioning options include ceiling and attic fans, and evaporative coolers (also known as swamp coolers). The latter is only used in low humidity environments.

The Heat Is On
Here’s a rundown on your heating options:

  • Forced Air Furnaces: Powered by either propane or natural gas, these units deliver warm air through floor registers. Compare performance with the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, a yellow tag on the side of the unit. Least efficient 78 AFUE; most efficient 98.6 AFUE. Builders recommend a 90 AFUE or greater. Pro: They are inexpensive and most contractors are familiar with installation. Plus, they can be paired with air cleaning systems, including filters, ultraviolet lights, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, to kill germs and airborne bacteria Con: They’re noisy and offer poor comfort because of temperature variations within the home.
  • High Velocity Forced Air: Air delivered to a room enters at a higher velocity (typically 2,000 ft/sec), creating better comfort. Pro: The ultra quiet, two-inch insulated tubes can be installed nearly anywhere. Plus, these systems cost less than conventional forced air. Con: Not all HVAC contractors have experience installing them.
  • Radiant Heat: Hot water radiators were the first example of this. But now the concept has been updated to in-floor units, a system that offers unparalleled comfort and energy efficiency. Pro: It minimizes heat loss by keeping heat at floor level. Plus, the boilers can also provide your hot water needs. Con: It’s slow response time for temperature changes make it impractical for infrequently visited vacation homes (which can be mitigated with Internet-enabled controls).
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps: Ground-source heat pumps use the earth or groundwater as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. Pro: Energy is inexhaustible and it’s energy efficient. Con: Requires a significant parcel of land for underground excavation.
  • Hearth Products: A toasty fire on a winter’s night goes together like butter and popcorn. Pro: Factory made units are certified as clean burning. Plus, a plethora of fuels are available; firewood, natural gas, propane, coal, oil, electricity, corn and wood pellets. Con: Are impractical as a primary heat source.
  • Combo Systems: Experts recommend combining two or more systems to provide the ultimate in comfort. Mike at Seven North, for example, often recommends a radiant heat system on the basement level, with a high velocity forced air system for the upper floors, which can deliver both heat and air conditioning for summer months.

Air Quality Control
Since log and timber homes can be super tight, experts recommend a triple approach to maintain healthy indoor air.
1) Air-to-Air Exchangers: These mechanical units, which attach to a forced air system, regulate indoor air quality by drawing in fresh air and ejecting stale air. Plus, they transfer 70 to 80 percent of the heat .
2) Humidifiers: Indoor air humidity in the winter can drop to as low as five percent, drying out your skin, lips and respiratory system not to mention damaging your home. A whole house humidifier is the solution, which range in cost from $400 to $800.
3) Ventilation Fans: Bathrooms equipped with motion activated or humidity sensitive controls exhaust steam from showers and unwelcome odors.

Instant Hot Water
Today’s gas or electric storage tank water heaters are becoming much more energy efficient. Another option can be tankless hot water heaters, which produce hot water on demand. Tankless units are available in propane (LP), natural gas, or electric models. They come in a variety of sizes for different applications, such as a whole-house water heater, a hot water source for a remote bathroom or hot tub.

Light Up For Less
Energy efficient lighting fixtures can now be found at most home centers (look for the Energy Star label). These can significantly save you money in direct lighting costs, as well as in cooling needs in the summer (lighting fixtures produce heat).

Going Green
If you’re looking to tread super light on the planet with your new home, you have more options than ever. What’s more, many states are offering tax incentives to those who opt for these alternative technologies. They include

  • Wind Power: A new generation of wind turbines can allow you to meet most of your electrical needs. Pro: If you’re on the grid, you can sell excess energy back to the power company. Con: Some consider them unsightly, which could be a problem in areas governed by covenants, including resorts or subdivision developments.
  • Active Solar PV systems
  • Wind Power
  • Geothermal
  • Fuel Cells

Home Energy Costs
Just where does the average $1,400 each homeowner spends on energy go every year? Approximately 45 percent goes to heating and cooling costs; 11 percent for water heater; 10 percent for washer and dryer, seven percent for lighting, six percent for refrigerator, two percent for dishwasher, two percent for computers, two percent for TV/DVD/VCR. The remaining 15 percent can be attributed to appliances that use electricity even when they’re “off.”

Appropriate Appliances
When buying an appliance, remember that it has two price tags: what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy and water it uses. Everything from refrigerators and computers to freezers and TVs now comes with an energy rating, detailing how much it will cost to operate annually. Energy Star-rated appliances can save you anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your energy bill.

Home Sense & Science
To create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment is a science. The addition or subtraction of one method can affect the home’s system as a whole—sometimes adversely. Members of the Log and Timber Homes Council can provide an analysis of what’s right for your local climate and give you advice on how to get the most bang for your buck.

Thank you Log Homes Council (LHC) for another GREAT article to share.  Be sure to visit the Log Home Council's web page (www.loghomes.org) to learn more about this and other relevant topics.

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Tags: log cabin home, log and timber home, dream log cabin, custom log home, log and timber homes, log and timber products, log cabin

8 Ways to Stick to Your Log Home Building/Remodeling Budget

Posted on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 @ 12:05 PM

custom log cabin homeRecently I ran across this blog on houzz.com (written by Bud Dietrich, AIA) and thought it was very relevant to any building project.  Several of the points he covers below I've touched on in my blog posts, but thought another point of view besides mine might be educational as well as informative for those looking to stay on budget while building or remodeling their dream log home in 2015.

"Inevitably, any new client will ask me "How much will the project cost?" The answer isn't always straightforward and easy. You see, a home construction budget, in both its creation and its maintenance, is more art than science.

Sure, it's easy to say the project is a new 2,000-square-foot house that will cost $200 per square foot to build. But what does that represent? Will it be the home you want? Does it factor in all of the intangibles and idiosyncrasies that any home construction project has? And you can certainly ignore any cost-per-square-foot guideline if it's an addition or remodeling project. Dealing with an existing house, especially one that's a little older, has its own set of rules.

Having said that, the best approach to identifying costs for your specific project and location is to talk with several architects, designers and builders. Each will probably give you a different "number," so you'll have to drill down into the detail of what that number means. Just remember that the devil is in the details.

1. Identify the project. Will it be a new home, an addition to your existing home, a kitchen or bath remodel or some combination of these? Each has its own budgeting method. While a simple "per square foot" cost may work for a new construction project, it definitely won't work for kitchen and bath remodels. And for something like an addition or renovation to a historic home, toss out any sort of cost guidelines. The best approach to establishing a budget for projects like these is to talk to professionals with experience.

2. Identify the pieces within your budget. Clients often don't identify all of the pieces of the budget. Sure, the largest piece might be the construction costs, but there will be many other costs. They can include land costs, legal fees, moving, decorating, landscaping, impact fees, architectural fees, permit costs and financing costs. At the outset, identify all of your potential costs and assign each a value. It would be a shame to finish the house but have no money left for landscaping or furniture.

3. Know thyself. If you just have to have that beautiful range that costs as much as a new luxury car, don't budget for the generic range from the local appliance store. Think about what you really want and how you really want to use the home you're creating, and make sure you've budgeted for it.

4. Expect to splurge. In the budget, allow for the few places where you'll want to splurge. For example, the kitchen backsplash is a place you may want to do something truly special and remarkable. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the backsplash is something you'll see several times a day for many years. Even if it costs a significant amount, allow yourself to splurge a little on something you'll enjoy.

5. Have a plan. A sure way of busting your budget is to defer decisions or, as they say in Washington, "kick the can down the road." Construction has started and you haven't made nearly enough decisions about what tile, what plumbing fixtures, what trim, etc. The builder starts pressuring you to make decisions or, worse, just does something without your input. You may find yourself tearing out work or, worse, have to live with something you really don't like because you don't have the time or money to change it.

The best way to avoid these nightmare scenarios is to have your architect and/or designer prepare a detailed set of drawings and make all of your decisions before starting construction. Then, don't change your mind. It's easier said than done, but preparing a plan and sticking to it is the best way to stay on track.

6. Have a contingency. Like other laws of nature, the law of a construction project is that "stuff happens." It could be a problem with the bearing capacity of the soil or uncovering rotted wood when getting ready to build the addition. The best way to deal with the unknown is to allow for a contingency in the budget.

The best approach is to start with a higher contingency, say 15% to 20% and then gradually reduce the contingency as you go through the project phases. When you first start the design, you'll have a line item in your budget for a, say, 20% contingency. After the drawings are done and the pieces of the project are identified you might reduce the contingency to 10%. As you you go through construction, you'll be able to reduce the contingency even more so that when construction is complete the contingency is zero.

You don't have to spend that contingency. If it isn't used, consider it found money that you can save. That's a great way to feel good about staying on track and coming in under budget.

7. Beware scope creep. A sure way to bust your budget is the dreaded "While we're it we might as well ... " You may justify it by saying "it'll only be a few hundred dollars," but once you do that a few times, you'll have added a bunch of work and will definitely blow your budget. Remember that you made a plan and remain determined to stick to it.

8. Consider tradeoffs. Sometimes it's difficult, if not impossible, to pass by that truly remarkable item that you find during the project that's not in the budget. When this happens, take a look at your budget and what you have left to accomplish, with the goal of reducing the cost of something else to afford this new find. Is there a part of the work, such as painting a few rooms, that you can do yourself? Maybe you can use carpet in lieu of hardwood in the guest bedroom. Get what you want and stay on track by moving budgeted amounts from one pocket to another."

In order to assist you with determining the cost of your custom log home, download our helpful Cost Estimating Worksheet that will keep track of the expenses you may experience while building.  Another resourse to use to help determine cost would be to contact your Local Independent Log Home Consultant.  They have years of experience helping others realize their dream log cabin home.

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Tags: log home, log cabin home, dream log home, dream log cabin, custom log home

Modifying Pre-Designed Log Home Plans to Meet YOUR Needs

Posted on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 @ 03:48 PM

Fair Oaks, log home, log cabin home, pre-designed plan        modified fair oaks, custom log home, modified log home floor plan

Although Appalachian Log Structures offers over 60 pre-designed log home floor plans, the majority of our homeowners have chosen to either modify or fully customize a floor plan to suite their lifestyle. In over 32 years of manufacturing log home packages we've rarely cut the same log house twice!

Take for instance the Fair Oaks floor plan above (left). We modified the Fair Oaks floor plan (above right) to take advantage of a beautiful lake front view for homeowners in Tennessee. We reversed the kitchen/dining area on the left hand side of the plan so the dining room could flow out on to a covered porch through beautiful sliding glass doors (with sliding screens). This offers wonderful opportunities for entertaining family and friends with traffic flowing easily from the kitchen and dining room to the specatular views from the porch and deck beyond.

The first floor 1/2 bath and utility area was re-designed to make easier access to the kitchen from the front door and to add a nice pantry to the kitchen area.

Upstairs, the two doghouse dormers on the front of the original plan were moved to the back of the house in order for both of the upstairs bedroom to have views of the lake and mountains beyond.

To take advantage of the sloping lot, a drive under two-car garage was designed for the basement and included another full bath and large gathering area with access to another deck below the 1st floor deck.

The modifications were done keeping in mind where the views would be, how the traffic would flow through the home and to take advantage of the wonderful weather in Eastern Tennessee and access to the lake from the home itself.

When viewing our pre-designed log floor plans, keep in mind that these are just a "starting place" from which your ideas can flow. Based on the building site, slope of land, the directional orientation, lifestyle, want/needs and especially your BUDGET, our experienced Log Home Sales Consultants are ready to help you modify or customize a floor plan to suite you. Let us help make your dream log home become reality!

View the two log home magazine articles that featured this Modified Fair Oaks by clicking on the links below:

Mail Order Log Home and Coming Together in Tennessee

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Tags: log home, log homes, dream log home, custom log home, log cabin

Is YOUR Log Home Manufacturer a Log Homes Council Member?

Posted on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 @ 12:28 PM

custom log homeBuilding your dream log home is likely one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime. But you’re not the only stakeholder in this project. Your local building department requires the log cabin home be constructed to code. Your lender wants the log home to be valued correctly. The builder wants to earn more business through word-of-mouth, as does the log home manufacturer.

With so much riding on this decision, who do you trust? We suggest limiting your choices to members of the Log Homes Council like Appalachian Log Structures. Why? Because for decades now, new log homes buyers have trusted members of the Log Homes Council to make their dream home a reality. That’s because all council members must:

  • Abide by a strict code of ethics
  • Grade their logs and timbers by third party agencies to ensure quality
  • Provide construction manuals to ensure correct construction techniques
  • Sponsor scientific studies that advance log building technologies
  • Provide information to help consumers make smart choices

"This means when you buy from a Log Homes Council member, you are getting quality building materials that will stand the test of time," says the Chair of the Log Homes Council.

But those aren't the only advantages in choosing a company that belongs to the Log Homes Council. While member companies compete fairly for your dream home while adhering to the membership requirements, they are united in their passion for their work.

"When was the last time you bought anything from anyone who not only harvests the raw materials, but also designs and crafts the finished product?," asks the Log Homes Council. "You will find everyone from the sales rep to the owner of the company have something in common with you: They share the same passion for living in a log home as you do."

Learn More About the Council
The Log Homes Council is a national organization with membership comprised of manufacturers of log homes. The council is part of the National Association of Home Builders. Appalachian Log Structures is proud to be one of the companies that first formed this organization and throughout the years have had two of our employees being Chair of the Council as well as serving on numerous advisory boards and committies. We proud of our association with the Log Home Council and their efforts to promote and support our industry.

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Tags: dream log home, log cabin kits, dream log cabin, custom log home, dream log cabin home

The Log Home: An American Dream!

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 @ 12:41 PM

Custom log home, log cabin home, cozy log cabinOver the centuries log homes have come a long way. The resurgence in log home construction came in the mid-1970's and along with it several opportunities to improve on what our forefathers taught us about constructing homes with full logs.

Of course when log home construction started in this country, our virgin timbers were HUGE and contained a lot of heart wood. Heartwood of all wood species is naturally resistant to insects and decay. Preservatives weren't so necessary then and what was used to help protect the wood was organic.

Now that we're on our 3rd or 4th harvesting of timbers there is a lot more sapwood exposed when the logs are milled or hewn. Sapwood of ALL wood species (yes - even cypress and cedar) is susceptible to decay and insects so preservation is very important today. It's the reason we started in 1977 to pressure treat our log wall building materials - something that no one had tried before - and we have never had a homeowner with insect or decay problems. In addition, just like our forefathers we're using an organic preservative in our pressure treating process - borates.

In the infancy of the new log home building industry the Log Home Council (LHC) was formed and became a division of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Appalachian Log Structures was one of the companies that helped form and support the LHC and still does today. Over the years several white papers have been produced by the LHC and one of them is featured here today. Click Here for an overview of the Log Home Industry and be prepared to learn some interesting and useful facts that you can take with you and use in your own dream log home project.

Don't forget to contact your local Log Home Consultant when you have questions or are ready to turn your dream log home in to reality!

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Tags: dream log home, dream log cabin, custom log home, borate pressure treatment, borates, dream log cabin home, build a log cabin

Halloween, Trick or Treat and Appalachian Log Structures

Posted on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 @ 12:16 PM

custom log cabin homeRemember the good old days - when you would put on your home made or store bought costume and walk the neighborhood with your friends trick-or-treating from door to door? We used to use paper bags from the grocery store or pillow cases to hold all the goodies that were being handed out.

Some houses would have candy, some fruit (candied apples), some had home made treats like popcorn balls or cupcakes. At some houses people put the treats in your bag but the ones we liked the MOST were the houses where you could pick and choose what you could take with you.

At Appalachian Log Structures we've taken a similar "pick what you want" approach with our pricing of log home building materials as well as our promotions that save you thousands of dollars.

Not only do we offer a choice of pre-cut or random length building materials but you can also choose what items you want to purchase. Although we have 3 levels of packages (Log Wall, Log and Beam and PLUS) you can customize your own package and choose what materials you want. If you want a pre-cut log wall with random length beams and rafters - it is not a problem. If you want a PLUS package but want to remove the loft decking - it can be done! You have the opportunity to take the materials you want for your project and your budget. We make it as easy as possible for you.

In our current promotion you have the same opportunity to make some choices to save on your materials depending on when you are ready to start your dream log home. By placing an order early on you will earn the most savings. By taking delivery early in 2015 you can receive a nice rebate as well.

At Appalachian Log Structures it's all about choices and what we have to offer that will fit your price point. Whether it is a full log and timber frame log home, a log wall with truss or conventional built roof, log siding and log siding corners for your conventional built home or modular/mobile home, decorative timbers for a hybrid home or log railing to finish out a re-model project - we offer it all. Don't see a manufactured wood item on our list that you may be interested in? Contact you Local Log Home Building Consultant and ask if we can custom mill something for you (custom log profiles, custom log siding profiles, hand peeled posts, etc.). We've done PLENTY of that, so don't be shy about asking.

Oh - and by the way - HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Hope you get everything you want in your trick-or-treat bag this year!

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Tags: dream log home, log cabin kits, dream log cabin, custom log home, dream log cabin home

Different Paths to your Dream Log Home

Posted on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 @ 12:40 PM

Dream Log Home

It’s rare these days to hear the phrase, “money is no object.” In this new economic climate, we’re all interested in making smart investments. Building a log home is no exception.

On the path to realizing your dream log cabin home, you will have to make a number of decisions. You will have to determine:

How much home you can afford

Where it will be located

Who will finance it

What kind of design

Who will manufacture the log package

These are decisions all log home buyers have to make.

Where the path to this goal diverges slightly is on the topic of who will construct it. Log homes often attract those with a pioneer spirit. As a result, you may be considering building all or part of the home yourself. Some want to craft their dream home with their own hands. Others think they will save money that would otherwise go to a builder.

But we encourage you to start pondering this decision at the outset of this journey, because it’s one of the most important decisions you will make. Your decision will impact the whole scope of the project, from financing and insurance to budget and completion time. You have to determine what path is right for you. You have three paths to choose from and the degree of challenge increases with your involvement.

Hire a Builder or Contractor

This is the easiest path. If you follow this course, you will be intimately involved in designing your home and picking a log home producer. Once the design plans are finalized, the log home package is cut and you turn the project over to the builder. The builder gives you a set of keys and a garage door opener when the home is finished. Then you move in. What could be simpler than that?

Choosing the right builder or contractor with experience in log home construction is not without challenges. But it is this path we recommend if you want to get your home completed on time and on budget. A professional will help you overcome countless obstacles and avoid mistakes that can add more costs, as well as delays in completion time.

Be Your Own General Contractor

A more difficult path is to act as your own general contractor or “GC.” You will need a great deal of talent for organization and delegation if you go this route. It’s also a full-time job, so make sure you have room for this role in your life. Tasks include:

• Locate and evaluate all subcontractors

• Prepare all construction specifications for each trade

• Obtain all subcontractor bids

• Prepare a complete cost estimate of the project

• Establish legal contracts between you and your subcontractors

• Obtain insurance

• Educate yourself on all local building codes, regulations and restrictions

• Obtain building permits

• Create construction schedule for all trades

• Order all building materials

• Manage the job site

• Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

Be An Owner-Builder

This the most difficult path. In this role, you will be responsible for everything the general contractor is responsible for, plus you will perform most—if not all—of the labor yourself. The cost of labor can be as much as 30% to 40% of the total cost of a home.

If visions of dollar signs are suddenly dancing in your head, be aware that construction is physically dangerous and difficult work. A moment of inattention on the jobsite at the end of a tiring day can lead to disasterous results. If you get hurt in an accident, you could spend months healing while watching your construction schedule and budget spiral out of control. That’s why you will have to budget as if you were paying a professional to build the home. That way if you get hurt or injured, you can still have your dream of log home ownership fulfilled.

Another difficulty is obtaining financing as an owner-builder. Many lenders are reluctant to loan to owner-builders. Discuss this with your lender early in the planning stages, to determine if it’s even an option.  As Owner/Builder Be Prepared To:

• Report on the progress of the project to local building officials and your lender

• Rise at half-dark thirty and confront a phyiscally demanding job, rain or shine

• Fire subcontractors when they don’t perform to your expectations

• Resolve conflicts between different teams of tradesmen

• Be adept at project management and scheduling

• Be able to bounce back from the unexpected events

• Expect that all those friends and family members who said they’d help you build your home, suddenly have other commitments to attend to

Although the above paths are different they will all result in your dream log home becoming reality.  Once you choose your path, enjoy the journey and keep the end goal in mind.

When you're ready to begin your journey, contact your local Log Home Building Consultant and we'll walk the path together.

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This article was taken in part from the Log Homes Council web page www.loghomes.org

Tags: log home, log cabin home, dream log home, log home building consultant, custom log home

How to Choose a Builder for Your Dream Log Home

Posted on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 @ 02:30 PM

custom log home builderFinding the right building professional to turn your dream of log home living into reality will take time and research.

When you buy from Appalachian Log Structures, a Log Homes Council member, they will provide graded logs and timbers, as well as construction drawings or a construction manual and 8-hours of on-site technical assistance, to help builders become familiar with their building system.

Although a few log home producers offer construction services, the vast majority of council members like Appalachian Log Structures leave construction to independent builders and contractors. It’s up to these individuals to turn that log home package into a comfortable and well-crafted home. Choosing the right professional for this job can be a daunting task. But that’s why the Log Homes Council created this Buyer’s Guide, to help consumers make educated decisions when making their dream home a reality.

Identify Your Role
Before you can move farther along The Perfect Path to Your Dream Home, you will need to identify your role in this construction process. This decision will affect a host of issues, including your budget. With the downturn in the housing market, the cost of labor accounts for three-fifths or 60% of the total cost to build, according to a recent reports from the National Association of Home Builders. You may be able to save some of this cost by doing some of the work yourself. Essentially you have three options, all discussed here at more length:

Professionally Built
When choosing this path, you will work with Appalachian Log Structures, a Log Home Council member, and a builder/contractor or a builder/dealer to finalize the design of the home. Then the manufacturer cuts the log home package while the builder performs infrastructure improvements, including installing foundation, driveway, water, sewer or septic and more. Once the log home package arrives and is inventoried, construction begins. When the home is finished, the builder obtains a certification of occupancy from the local building inspector and you move in. This is the easiest path and it’s often recommended if you want to have a home completed on time and on budget.

Owner-Contractor
This is a more difficult path. As the owner-contractor (general contractor or GC), you will be responsible for hiring talent to do the work. However, this is not without risks or long hours. In fact, it’s a full-time gig.

You will have to prepare all the specifications for each trade (specifications are the instructions for what materials to use and description of the job they are expected to perform), locate subcontractors, obtain bids, prepare cost estimate and budget, maintain a comprehensive construction schedule and finalize all contracts. (Hint: Have an attorney familiar with construction review all contracts before signing.)

You will also to educate yourself on all local building codes, insurance rules, safety regulations, plus attend to a raft of other details. This includes obtaining building permits, dealing with building inspectors and your lender, ordering and inventorying building materials and managing the job site.

Another duty that you will have to reluctantly perform as a GC is make mistakes. It could be scheduling errors, building materials broken or overlooked, a bad choice in a subcontractor or any number of other drop-the-ball blunders. Even professionals make mistakes, from time to time. But if you are new to construction, it’s nearly guaranteed you will make far more. This will cost you more in time and money.

Owner-Builder
This is the most difficult path. Think of it as several full-time gigs. This means you will likely be working days, nights and weekends. You will be responsible for everything the general contractor is responsible for, plus you will perform much of the labor yourself.

Work for Your Builder
Yet another option is to find a builder who is willing to be flexible and allow you to perform some of the labor yourself. If you have some home improvement skills, you can tackle any number of construction tasks and eliminate the cost of that labor. Scores of log home buyers have saved on thieir building budgets by installing landscaping, staining logs, cleaning up the jobsite and more.

Lender May Decide For You
Unless you just arrived here in a hot tub time machine, you already know that lenders and banks are much more conservative. In this new lending environment, they may require a veteran log builder construct your home. Explore your options with your lender.

Which Role is Right for You?
How much time do you have in your life for this project? Reviewing your schedules can bring some clarity to the decision of whether to tackle this job or hire a pro.

Budget for A Pro
Even if you are going to tackle some of the construction yourself, you should budget the project as if you were having it turnkeyed by a builder. This creates a safety net that ensures your project will get done. If you get hurt on the job and can’t finish the project, you will have enough to bring in a professional to finish the job.

Shopping for Builder/Contractor
The company you have chosen to cut your log package will likely have lists of builders they have done business with before. You can also contact building associations in your area. Select several to consider and evaluate each carefully.

Check References & Rapport
Review each company’s standing in the building community. Also weigh their communication skills and whether you have good rapport. After all, you will be spending anywhere from a few months to a year interacting. You want a good working relationship.

Tour Completed Homes
Visit log homes the builder has built before. Closely inspect crafting and sealing at corners and around doors and windows. A three- to five-year-old home is probably the best example of a builder’s art.

Check Official Channels
Contact the local contractors’ board or similar state or regional authority, to see if the individual is in good standing. Make sure the builder is licensed and bonded. Check online with your state’s Attorney General’s office to see if the builder has been involved with litigation or judgments in the past. In today’s litigious society, don’t expect a spotless record in a career spanning decades. But multiple incidents in a shorter time frame can be an alarm bell.

Trust Your Intuition
Interview each individual, to get a feel for their communication style and customer service. Talk with their past clients to see how they performed in real world situations. It’s likely that at least one individual will click with you.

When you are ready to begin the process of building your dream log cabin home be sure to look up your nearest Log Home Building Consultant and schedule a meeting with them at your job site.  We're excited to assist you and get you in your log home as soon as possible.

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This article was taken in part from the Log Homes Council web site www.loghomes.org.

Tags: log home, log cabin home, dream log home, log home building consultant, custom log home

8 Stratagies for Reducing Log Home Construction Costs

Posted on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 @ 11:43 AM

 

custom log home construction In addition to being a motivation for much of what we do, money is energy. It enables us to go places and do things, including taking care of our families or buying and building a new home. Most of us have a finite amount of this energy, mainly through long years of hard work, patient savings and perhaps the sale of a conventional home.

Now you’re ready to use all that energy to create your dream log home. But is it enough? Where can you conserve? That’s why the Log Homes Council created this Buyer’s Guide, to help consumers make wise choices on the Perfect Path to Your Dream Home.

Begin by sitting down with a lender who specializes in log homes to discuss financing options. By being pre-qualified by your lender, you will how know exactly much energy you have to work with on your dream log cabin home.

How Much Do Professional Builders Spend?
What do the pros typically spend on new home construction? Are there any ballpark figures out there that can help you see if anything is out of line? Indeed there is.

The total cost of an average new home in the U.S. breaks down thusly, according to the 2004 Cost of Doing Business Study: The Business of Building, published by BuilderBooks.com, a division of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
• Finished lot costs 20-25% of the total selling price, with half of that reflecting infrastructure costs, such as utilities and driveway.
• Building materials, everything from foundation and flooring, to porches and roofs, cost 25-30% of the total.
• Onsite labor costs 20-25%.
• General overhead is about 6%.
• Financing costs are about 2%.

Thinking of being your own general contractor to save money? Small-volume builders (constructing an average 4.9 homes a year) who built exclusively on their clients’ land had average gross profit margin of 18.9% and an average net profit of 4.8%, according to the study.

If you decide to build your own log home, you won’t earn all of that 4.8%. You will pay far more for labor, since subcontractors will see you as a one-time job and price their services accordingly. You will also pay more for specialty tools needed in log construction. Professional log home builders pro-rate their tools costs over several jobs. You will also pay more for insurance, since insurance companies will see you as a greater risk. It’s also almost guaranteed you will make costly mistakes that pros won’t, which will cost you more in time, materials and labor.

Value Engineering
Want to do more with less? This is called value engineering. Your log home producer and builder have an assortment of cost cutting tricks. Use their expertise. Simply communicate that you need to save money on your budget. They can provide all kinds of helpful advice, including:

1. Reducing Square Footage
One way to dramtically reduce costs is to just reduce the square footage of the entire home. Think small and cozy to slash costs. Another smart strategy is to build upward with a two-story design rather than outward, such as with a ranch design.

2. Choosing a Stock Design
Custom designs cost more in design time, materials and labor. Most log home manufacturers have dozens of stock plans that they have built time and time again. Many errors have been eliminated in these designs, which makes them go up smoothly, saving you time and money.

3. Reducing Lineal Feet of Logs
Adding decorative stone, cedar shake or stucco can actually accent logs and reduce costs.

4. Opt for a Simple Roof System
The roof is one of the most expensive material and labor line items in your budget. This is why the simpler the roof system, the less expensive it will be. The most inexpensive roof is a simple, single ridgeline with a shallow pitch. More complicated roof systems, called hips and valleys with a steeper pitch, are more visually interesting. But they are also a lot more expensive.

5. Use Drywall On Interior
Pine paneling on the interior of your partition walls looks great. However, it’s roughly twice the cost of drywall—and cedar paneling is even more expensive than pine.

6. More Modest Kitchen
If your marriage can take the heat, down grade your kitchen appliances and amenities. Almost everything in a kitchen can be upgraded later, including flooring, appliances and cabinetry.

7. Don’t Take A Bath on Your Bath
Much like kitchens, bathrooms have a variety of materials that can be upgraded later. If you want that jetted tub in the master bath but can’t afford it now, specify a soaking tub of the same size from the same manufacturer. Swapping it out in the future will be a snap.

8. Avoid Change Orders
Last minute changes in design or materials are called “change orders” and they can quickly take a toll on your budget. Save these for correcting any serious errors.

For more insight in to cost saving ideas when building your dream log home, be sure to contact your Local Log Home Building Consultant for an appointment and to visit their model home.  We're all here to assist you.

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This article taken in part from the Log Homes Council library.

Tags: log home, log cabin home, dream log home, custom log home, log construction, dream log cabin home

NC Log Home Owners use Strategic Planning

Posted on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 @ 11:59 AM

Nantahala floor plan, log cabin home, log home

Good strategy, communication, vision and hard work eventually pay off for two homeowners who used all of the planning tools in their tool belt to build their dream log home.

It was not planned or executed overnight but over several years.  Cultivating the dream, envisioning the finished product and working towards a common goal all paid off in the end.  Now this beautiful log home is the Shaffer's dream log home come true.

A lot of their own blood, sweat and tears went in to their retirement home in Western North Carolina and it really shows.  For the protection of their investment, they chose to use logs pressure treated with borates to guarantee against wood digesting insects and decay.  In addition, they also liked the advantages that the spring loaded thru-bolt offered - keeping their log cabin home tight and energy efficient over the years.

Now that it's complete - they enjoy their time on the porch looking over the picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their home was featured in Country's Best Log home magazine and you can CLICK HERE to see more photos and read about their experiences.

When planning your dream log home, take your time, think it through and don't forget to work with a Log Home Consultant that has your best interest at heart.

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Tags: log home, log cabin home, log structures, custom log home